Winners and Losers
Allen & Unwin, 173 pp, $10.95 pb
Historians of the left have frequently adopted a highly sceptical, if not outright hostile, stance towards that pursuit of working-class interests through parliamentary politics which resulted in some form of ‘welfare state’ in most western industrial democracies. Historical interpretation has tended to polarise. On the one hand, liberal scholars have heralded the progress of governments towards active provision of an assured basic standard of living for those least advantaged in a capitalist society. On the other, a handful of socialist and Marxist scholars has discovered merely the minimal concessions of a bourgeois state to dampen the zeal of radicals, for fear of threatening disruptive social conflict; the reforms themselves were partial, inadequate, and a prop to the essentially conservative interests of the state, rather than a genuine modification of the body politic in the interests of the working-class.